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Chemistry Advising Resources

Department: Chemistry & Biochemistry

This page is meant to provide resources to assist you in planning your degree progress.

Chemistry Advising

The advisor for the Chemistry B.A., Chemistry B.S., Chemistry B.S. with Biochemistry Concentration, and the Chemistry minor is Marla Hesselink.

Marla’s Advising Email:

This is a photo of Marla, the Chemistry Undergrad advisor

Most advising questions can be answered via email! Please follow the guidelines below when emailing the Chemistry Advisor:

  • Use the chemistry advising email above, NOT the personal emails of Chemistry advisor.
  • Include your full name and student ID number.
  • If you are requesting assistance with forms, please attach a copy of your form to the email.

Chemistry Advising Summer 2022 Appointment Schedule:

  • Tuesday: Remote/Zoom Advising Available 9:00AM-11AM & 1:00PM-4:00PM
  • Wednesday: Remote/Zoom & In-Person Advising Available 9:30AM-11AM & 1:00PM-4:00PM
  • Thursday: Remote/Zoom Advising 9:00AM-11:00AM & 1:00PM-4:00PM
  • No appointments on Mondays or Fridays.
  • If none of the advising times above work for you and you need to meet with Marla, please email her at to request an off-schedule appointment.

Make an appointment with Marla here, using Navigate Slug Success. Please include a short description of what you want to discuss at the appointment when you schedule, so Marla may prepare for your meeting.

Instructions for how to make appointments using Slug Success.

Getting Started in Chemistry

Getting Started Guides

Getting started in the major as a first-year student
Getting started in the major as a transfer student

Orientation Presentations

Chemistry & Biochemistry Orientation Presentation for Frosh
Chemistry & Biochemistry Orientation Presentation for Transfer Students

Chemistry Self Assessment

Students who want to make sure they are prepared for the introductory general chemistry sequence are encouraged to take the Chemistry Self-Assessment offered in Canvas (the online system UCSC uses to create and manage lessons, courses, quizzes and other course materials). Your score on the exam will help you determine when to take general chemistry.

Accessing the Assessment:

NOTE: You will need your UCSC CruzID Gold and password to log in to Canvas.

Assessment Guidelines:

  • You may use a calculator and periodic table when taking the assessment.
  • The exam consists of 42 multiple choice questions.
  • There is no time limit; you may take as long as needed to complete the exam.
  • You will receive immediate feedback after submitting your exam.
  • The assessment is advisory, not required to enroll.
  • Any UCSC student with an active CruzID Gold password may take the assessment.

Assessment Score & Enrollment

  • 0-25 points: You should review general chemistry before enrolling in Chem 1A or Chem 1B. Recommended resource: UCI Chemistry 1P online
  • 25-35 points: You may benefit from review prior to enrolling in CHEM 1A.
  • 36-42 points: Your score suggests you are prepared to enroll in general chemistry.

Resources for Reviewing Chemistry

UC Irvine, CHEM 1P: Preparation for Chemistry

Transfer Students & Transfer Credit Requests

Students intending to transfer into UCSC to pursue a Chemistry degree should review the Transfer Information and Policy section of the catalog for the Chemistry degree of interest (links below). Students can also review the getting started in the Chemistry major as a transfer student guide.

Students preparing to transfer from a California Community College should also reference to determine what UCSC coursework they may receive transfer credit for.

General information on transfer credit (including how to have it sent to UCSC) can be found here.

Students preparing to transfer from another University or an out-of-state Community College can request Chemistry major or minor course credit for courses completed at their original institution via the Transfer Credit Articulation Request form.

NOTE: Unit Credit and satisfaction of GE requirements are processed through admissions. Please see the UCSC advising website for more information.

Degree Requirements and Academic Planning

Degree requirements for Chemistry B.A.
Degree requirements for Chemistry B.S.
Degree requirements for Chemistry B.S. with Biochemistry Concentration

Curriculum Plan 2021-22 – this document shows in which quarters all Chemistry & Biochemistry courses are planned to be offered this academic year.

Fillable Planners

Below are links to academic planning forms you may use to independently create an academic plan and track your progress over time. It is highly recommended that students share and review their academic plan with the Chemistry Undergraduate Advisor to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Important notes about using fillable planners:

  1. You will need to be logged in to your Google account in order to access these forms.
  2. Make sure to click on BOTH TABS at the bottom of the planning documents to view:
    1. A form that can be used to plan out coursework quarter-by-quarter
    2. A checklist of the course requirements to complete the degree or minor
  3. The drop-down menus within the academic plan tabs have ALL the CHEM/BIOC major requirement courses (but not all are necessarily for your major-of-choice specifically).
    1. using the drop down menus while academic planning allows you to easily view in what quarters courses are offered:
      1. (F) stands for “Fall”, (W) stands for “Winter”, (S) stands for “Summer”
      2. If there are no parenthesis next to the course (i.e.: CHEM 1A), then the course is offered every quarter (except perhaps summer).
  4. You should ALWAYS share your academic plan with — they can help you ensure the accuracy of the plan & that other advisors can access it as needed.

Make a copy of the Chemistry B.A. Academic Planning Form
Make a copy of the Chemistry B.S. Academic Planning Form
Make a copy of the Chemistry B.S. with Biochemistry Concentration Academic Planning Form
Make a copy of the Chemistry minor Academic Planning Form


Current Enrollment Updates

Updated 5/18/22

Fall 2022 Enrollment Updates

As of 5/18/22, all Fall 2022 Chemistry & Biochemistry courses are being offered in-person (as listed in the UCSC Class Schedule).

CLASS CLOSED/FULL?: The Chemistry & Biochemistry Department monitors enrollment numbers throughout the enrollment period and adjusting capacities as possible/necessary. Students should waitlist for Chemistry courses that are full (waitlists open during second pass enrollment), especially if the sections are full but the total course enrollment has not been met. The department uses waitlisting to gauge the demand for additional seats.

For enrollment information/procedures/updates on BIOL courses, visit the MCD enrollment website.

For updates on courses sponsored by other departments (non CHEM/BIOC courses), please visit the appropriate department websites. 

Organic Chemistry

CHEM 8M: enrollment is restricted (for Winter enrollment) during first pass to those majors in which it is a requirement. The enrollment restriction will lift during the second pass. CHEM 8M is offered both Winter and Spring Quarters.

CHEM 110/L: enrollment is restricted to chemistry majors, minors and proposed majors. Students outside of chemistry who wish to take this course should complete the Enrollment Request Form. Once all chemistry majors have had an opportunity to enroll into CHEM 110/L, those on the request form will be contacted via email with next steps if there are seats available. Entering your information on the form does not guarantee your enrollment into the course or lab.

Non-chemistry students needing a third quarter of organic chemistry should enroll into CHEM 109. (NOTE: CHEM 109 and CHEM 110L cannot be taken together. CHEM 109 does not substitute for CHEM 110.)

General Enrollment Policies

General Enrollment Information

General Enrollment Information from the Registrar (enrollment appointments, waitlists, min/max credits, etc.)
Enrollment How-To Videos

General Chemistry

The General Chemistry series includes three lectures courses (CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B, and CHEM 1C) and two lab courses (CHEM 1M, to be taken with CHEM 1B, & CHEM 1N, to be taken with CHEM 1C).

Please note that CHEM 1A and CHEM 1B do not have to be taken in order. These are two separate courses that do not build upon each other. CHEM 1A requires placement in Math 3 or equivalent (ALEKS placement score, AP test scores, or AM 3) and is a prerequisite for CHEM 1C but NOT CHEM 1B. Please keep this in mind if you find your intended General Chemistry course is full. You may have other options!

Lab Attendance and “Crashing”

Enrolled students who do not attend their first lab meeting will be dropped. Attendance will be taken in the first 10 minutes; students not present when roll is taken will be dropped from the lab and their space in the course will be given to those on the waitlist.

General Chemistry labs are offered every quarter. Although it is recommended to take the General Chemistry lecture & associated lab concurrently, students have the option of delaying the lab for a future quarter if the lab sections are full.

“Crashing” lab sections:  In the case of all Chemistry labs, “crashing” is not an option, even if you are on the waitlist for the lab. Only enrolled students (not including waitlist) may attend the first lab.


All Chemistry courses will have a waitlist.  Do not contact the instructor asking for a permission code to get you off the waitlist.

  • Waitlists will be available at the start of Second Pass enrollment: Log in to MyUCSC to view your waitlist appointment time. For your best chance at becoming enrolled, add or swap onto a waitlist as soon as they become available.
  • All waitlists will be set to auto-enroll unless otherwise noted: Students will be automatically enrolled as space becomes available in the course and notified via email.
  • Waitlists will manage enrollment: If you want to enroll in a full course, you MUST enroll onto the waitlist.  To allow for fair access to enrollment, individual requests to instructors or the department will not be entertained.
  • On the 8th day of each quarter, the wait lists are deleted and permission numbers are required to enroll in any additional classes. At that point in the quarter, students need to complete the following steps to enroll in any Chemistry courses that are NOT FULL. Students cannot enroll in full courses.
    • Step 1: Email the faculty member directly to ask if it is still okay to join the class. Students will NOT receive permission numbers from the faculty, but the faculty need to approve late enrollment in the course.
    • Step 2: If the faculty member approves, the student must forward that approval email to
    • Step 3: Once Chemistry & Biochemistry advisors see the approval email, they will provide the student with a permission number.

Chemistry Lab Waitlists

If you are waitlisted in CHEM 1B, CHEM 1C, CHEM 8A, or CHEM 8B, you will not be able to waitlist the corresponding lab course (CHEM 1N, CHEM 1M, CHEM 8L, CHEM 8M) until you are officially enrolled in the class, unless you have previously passed the courses.

NOTE FOR WAITLISTED LAB STUDENTS: As explained below, waitlisted students must wait for an official enrollment confirmation notification from the Registrar’s Office prior to attending the lab section.
  • CHEM 1M is the lab associated with CHEM 1B. CHEM 1N is the lab associated with CHEM 1C.
  • CHEM 8L is the lab associated with CHEM 8A. CHEM 8M is the lab associated with CHEM 8B.
  • Gen Chem Labs (1M and 1N) do not have a lab lecture.  O Chem labs (8L and 8M) do – held once a week.
  • O Chem Labs (8L and 8M): All students enrolled, waitlisted, or seeking a seat in a lab MUST attend the first class lecture meeting (lab lecture – NOT the lab itself) which is noted in the schedule of classes.
  • “Crashing” lab sections:  In the case of all Chemistry labs, “crashing” is not an option, even if you are on the waitlist for the lab. Only enrolled students (not including waitlist) may attend the first lab. If you are on the waitlist, you must wait for confirmation notification by the Registrar’s Office regarding your official enrollment in a lab section prior to attending the lab section.

Independent Study

If you need an independent study course number for enrollment for either your Senior Thesis or Lab Research, you must complete a Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies form. You must have an informal agreement in place with the Professor/Faculty Sponsor prior to completing this form.

How to Qualify and Declare for the Chemistry Major

Major Qualification

Students must complete a certain set of coursework and achieve a certain GPA in order to qualify for a Chemistry major.

Qualification courses and GPA requirements for the B.A.
Qualification courses and GPA requirements for the B.S.

Major Declaration Timeline

The major declaration deadlines for each quarter can be found in the academic calendar.

Students who entered UC Santa Cruz as first-year students are required to formally declare a major by the deadline in their sixth quarter on campus.

Students who transfer to UC Santa Cruz are required to declare a major by the deadline in their second quarter on campus.

Major Declaration Process

Students may petition to declare

  • once they have completed all qualification courses and met the GPA requirements;
  • have an official, signed, department-approved academic plan on file;
  • have met or communicated with the Chemistry advisor regarding their academic plan.

Beginning June 2022, Chemistry majors may log into MyUCSC and submit the Petition for Major/Minor via MyUCSC as soon as you have met major qualification requirements and/or reach your declaration deadline quarter, whichever comes first.

The petition to declare form can be accessed by going to MyUCSC and navigating to the Student Homepage and selecting the Undergraduate Student eForms tile > Petition for Major/Minor

For assistance, please contact the chemistry advising team at

Major Declaration Appeals

Appeals do not have to be any particular length, but should clearly and concisely explain the reason you are appealing.

Appeals should be sent to, who will forward the appeal to the appropriate faculty reviewer.

All appeals must contain the following information at the top of the appeal letter:

  • Full name
  • Student ID number
  • Major you wish to declare

In the body of your appeal letter, explain the extenuating circumstances that influenced your academic performance. Identify solutions/resources you are using or intend to use to improve your academic performance in the future, and anything else you feel is relevant to explaining your circumstances.

Please note that the information you share in your appeal or with your advisors will be kept confidential and shared only with campus officials as required to serve you in an advising capacity or to process your appeal, except in cases related to potential harm to yourself or others, or sexual assault or abuse. In those cases, we may be required by law to report incidents you disclose to other need-to-know offices on campus such as the Title IX Office and/or University of California Police Department. If you are in need of support for any issues, please consult this list of confidential and/or support resources.

How to Declare Chemistry as a Second/Double Major

Pursuing a double major that includes a Chemistry major is a highly individual decision, and should be based on a student’s educational and career goals. Because Chemistry major itself is a rigorous, it should be noted that completing a double major involving Chemistry is difficult (though possible).

To declare a double major program, a student must obtain an academic plan showing that they are able to complete both degrees within the maximum number of quarters of enrollment available at UCSC.  Therefore, the steps to pursue Chemistry as a second major are as follows:

  1. Create and review a major academic plan for your first major and have it signed by the appropriate UCSC major advisor.
  2. Make an appointment with the Chemistry major advisor and send the link to your signed academic planning form to
  3. The Chemistry major advisor will review your major academic plan and will add the Chemistry major courses to your plan, if it is viable to do so per double unit counting, enrollment limitations, and time-to-degree guidelines.
  4. The Chemistry major advisor will discuss the double major plan with you during your appointment. If the plan is viable, it will be approved and signed by both yourself and the Chemistry major advisor.
  5. Once you have an approved & viable double major plan, the Chemistry major advisor will process your Chemistry major declaration.
Chemistry Minor

To view the course requirements for the Chemistry minor, see the Chemistry minor catalog.

Students electing a chemistry minor may not use the online petition to declare.  The steps to pursue a Chemistry minor are as follows:

  1. Review a major academic plan and have it signed by your UCSC major advisor.
  2. Make an appointment with the Chemistry minor advisor and send the link (or PDF) to your signed academic planning form to
  3. The Chemistry minor advisor will review your major academic plan and will add the Chemistry minor courses to your plan, if it is viable to do so per double credit counting, enrollment limitations, and time-to-degree guidelines.
  4. The Chemistry minor advisor will discuss your Chemistry minor plan with you during your appointment.
  5. Once approved as a viable major/minor plan by both the major/department advisor and the Chemistry minor advisor the Chemistry minor advisor will sign the academic planning form and they will process your minor declaration.
    1. NOTE: Students need to declare a major before they can declare a minor. If the student is not declared in a major, they must wait for the minor to be declared even if they have a signed academic plan.

More general information on Double Majors and Minors may be found at the following link:

Academic Support
Below are some particularly useful resources for students seeking academic support. Please visit the website for a full list of academic support resources

  • ACE – The Academic Excellence Program provides discussion sections in biology, pre-calculus, general and organic chemistry and physics. Sections meet for 4 hours each week with professional teaching staff and take the place of the required secondary discussion section for your math or science lecture.
  • Chemistry Tutoring – Looking for a Chemistry tutor? Reach out to!
  • College Scholars Program (CSP) – The UC Santa Cruz College Scholars Program (CSP) offers a congenial and stimulating academic home for a select group of well-prepared first-year students at UC Santa Cruz. This enriched program of study includes special courses, seminars, colloquia, and other events during each quarter of the student’s first academic year and fall of the student’s second academic year.
  • DRC – The Disability Resource Center assists the UCSC campus with equal educational access for students with disabilities.
  • EOP – Academic and personal support for educationally disadvantaged students.
  • LSS – Learning Support Services offers Modified Supplemental Instruction (MSI) and tutoring services.
  • MSI – Modified Supplemental Instruction gives students the opportunity to learn together in small groups led by advanced Student Learning Assistants.
  • Navigate Slug Success – You can use Navigate Slug Success to:
    • Set alerts and reminders. Stay on top of your to-do list and important deadlines.
    • Locate campus resources. Connect to resources and support throughout campus.
    • Sync your class schedule with your phone calendar. See your whole schedule in one calendar view.
    • Find Study Buddies. Start or join a study group with other students from your classes.
    • Make an appointment. Instantly schedule a Slug Success meeting with an academic advisor or other campus staff.
  • STEM Diversity – The UCSC STEM Diversity Programs encompass a variety of programs that support underrepresented students in STEM fields.
  • STEM Hub – The STEM Hub is a place for Small Group Tutoring from Learning Support Services (LSS), study space, and peer advising, centrally located on Science Hill to support the retention and graduation of low-income, first-generation, EOP, and Latinx STEM students at UCSC. All students are welcome.
  • Technology Resources – Our campus recognizes the importance of digital equity. The Division of Student Affairs and Success has developed a list of resources available to students who seek assistance with tech needs (computer labs, low-cost internet, library loaners, etc.).
Undergraduate Research

Becoming involved in research is one of the most important decisions you will make as an undergraduate student.  For students interested in pursuing grad school, undergraduate research is a way of expanding your education outside of the classroom and better preparing yourself for the rigors of graduate study. The right research experience can greatly enhance your education and further your preparation for industry, business, and professional schools.

Getting involved in an undergraduate research project is not like signing up for a class. Instead, it is much more like obtaining a job – you need to find an available research position and then sell yourself for that position.

This is a recording of the Undergraduate Research Information Session held on October 13, 2021 from 12pm-1pm by Chemistry & Biochemistry department at UC Santa Cruz. Students interested in participating in Chemistry and Biochemistry-related research should watch this video and then read the tips below. Those two references, together, are a great starting guide to help begin the search for a research opportunity.

Step 1: Activate

First and Second Year students –  plan ahead by attending workshops and events held by the Undergraduate Research Office.

Attend the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, Poster Session, & Panel Discussion in late May or early June.

Consider joining the “Chemistry Club” – The Chemistry club at UCSC is a great way for students to meet others interested in Chemistry and a great way to meet professors and talk to them about their research

Step 2: Brainstorm

Think about courses you’ve taken or other educational experiences you’ve had.

  • Make a list of those subjects that you find most interesting.
  • For ideas on topics to list, scan through your science and textbook indices.
  • Look at the department  research section of our website for subjects in which you are interested.
  • What are you excited about? Start searching the web to find out what is happening in this area.
  • Are there news stories about flashy new discoveries? Check out the department news section

Once you have evaluated your research interests and organized your time (plan on up to 15 hours per week), the next step is finding a faculty mentor. As part of a collaborative research team, you will need to find the right position both for you and your potential research lab.

Step 3: Identifying possible research mentors

Once you have an idea of the area in which you would like to do research, you are now ready to find a mentor.

Research your potential faculty mentor

Identify a few faculty and read about their general area of research. Our departments’ faculty listings describe the professor’s research and list recent articles.

When you are researching potential faculty mentors, make sure they are conducting research in your area of interest. You should be able to connect your coursework or previous volunteer/research experience to the research project you are applying for.

Step 4: Contacting potential mentors

Send an email to potential faculty members introducing yourself and clearly indicating your purpose for contacting them. This “cover letter” should include the following points:

  • Name and major/department affiliation
  • Purpose for contacting them
  • Major research interests and enthusiasm for gaining research experience
  • How do your research interests relate to the research being done in said laboratory (ie. Why are you interested in their specific laboratory?)
  • Include your contact information (email, phone, etc.)

As an attachment to your email, include your curriculum vitae (CV). A CV is similar to a resume but is specific to your academic career. Include:

  • Relevant coursework – you may want to include a short description of techniques/concepts mastered.
  • Leadership experience (on/off campus) and work experience that demonstrates organizational skills, independent thinking, etc.)
  • Honors, awards or distinctions (include name of award, granting college/department, and monetary value if appropriate)

Some faculty members may also require a copy of your unofficial transcript.

NOTE: When you contact potential mentors, you may find that one or more of them is unable to accept you into his/her lab. This may be due to a variety of circumstances so do not take it personally. Students often become discouraged in the search for a research position because they have sent many e-mails to faculty and have gotten no replies. Take heart! Your letter may not have reached them.  They might be out of town.  But often the reason for lack of response is something that can be fixed by using proper business communication etiquette.  See the following examples of good and bad letters so you can learn how to write a better letter of inquiry to a potential employer.

Letter Etiquette

Sample Cover Letter

Sample Curriculum Vitae

Step 5: Academic Credit

Chemistry majors may receive credit for participating in research at UCSC by enrolling in the following courses:

CHEM 195ABC Senior Thesis (5 credits)

CHEM 199  Senior Research:  Independent Research in Lab (5 credits)

Please visit the following link to complete your petition for an Independent Study Course. All Research Independent Study Courses require a faculty sponsor.

Work Experience, Careers, & Graduate School

Chemistry is a degree that allows for myriad possibilities of career avenues. Graduates from Chemistry majors can pursue careers in industry, academia, government, non-profit, and/or entrepreneurship. Below are some resources that the Chemistry and Biochemistry department has gathered for students to peruse as they are considering careers for their degree.

Want to receive targeted emails based on your career interests? Fill out the Career Interest Survey to sign up! You can unsubscribe here at any time.

Career Exploration:

Graduate/Ph.D. Program Exploration:

Internship & Job Search:


  • Graduate Program Recruitment & Information Events/Workshops

    The Graduate Program Recruitment & Information Events/Workshops document includes a continuously updated list of upcoming Graduate Program information events, workshops, application deadlines, etc. that the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department has been asked to advertise and that may be of interest to current Chemistry & Biochemistry undergraduates that are considering or pursuing graduate school.  

Internships/Extracurricular Experience:

Student Spotlight

Gabriel Gilman – Spring 2022 Spotlight

Chemistry BS Major

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Gabriel Gilman, and I am a fourth year Chemistry B.S. major. I am originally from Riverside, California and am the 5th out of 6 kids! In my free time I love playing soccer and racing with the Triathlon Club here at UC Santa Cruz.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience.

When I came to UCSC I was unsure of what major I wanted to go into so I took a few different intro STEM classes. I proceeded to fall in love with chemistry after being inspired by Professor Alegra Eroy-Reveles in her Chem 1A class. While other majors (physics and biology being the main two) were interesting, the more chemistry classes I took the more excited I got. All of my peers inspire me every day to try my hardest, and I am so thankful for all the friends I have made in the different STEM classes I have taken.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?

When I came into UCSC I didn’t have a specific major in mind, but I knew I wanted to pursue a science degree because of my intense curiosity. When I took Chem 1A with Professor Eroy-Reveles I knew that chemistry was the degree for me. Since then I have taken many different chemistry classes with each one causing me to become more excited and fascinated with the field of chemistry. I plan to use this love of chemistry along with my innate curiosity to help bring people justice through the use of forensics.

Has there been a highlight during your undergraduate experience at UCSC?

A couple of the main highlights from my last 4 years here have been researching in the Ayzner lab and being a TA for Chem 1C. I have learned a lot about physical chemistry and light harvesting systems through my research, and have always felt supported by the amazing people in the Ayzner lab. I also got the chance to be a TA during my last quarter and loved teaching chemistry students and getting the chance to inspire them in the same way that Professor Alegra Eroy-Reveles inspired me.

Are there any specific challenges you’ve overcome that you’d like to feature?

One of the hardest things about going to university has been dealing with anxiety. I have always dealt with anxiety, but it wasn’t until freshman year of college that I realized just how much I struggled. During my freshman year I would constantly get stomach aches and feel like throwing up because of my anxiety. However, once I realized what the problem was, I began working on my mental health. While this is an ongoing battle, I am so thankful to all my friends, study groups, and professors who have helped me through this.

What are your goals/plans for the future?

I have wanted to go into forensics since freshman year of high school. However, since doing research here at UCSC I have found a passion for research and have realized that I want to get my PhD in chemistry. Thus, I am going to work in forensics for a few years so that I know what branch of chemistry I want to go into, get my PhD, and then continue to work in the field of forensics.

Do you have any advice for other Chemistry/Biochemistry undergraduates?

Find a study group! One of the things that got me through some of the toughest classes I’ve ever taken was a study group. I’ve been in a few different study groups over the years, and they are amazing! They have not only helped me through hard classes, but they have also led to some lifelong friendships.

Eris Minckler – Spring 2022 Spotlight

Chemistry BS Major

Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in Southern California where I spent my free time doing cross country running, playing marimba & cello, and exploring Los Angeles. I graduated highschool after my sophomore year and began attending Pasadena City College at 16. I was drawn to UC Santa Cruz by the collaborative environment and natural beauty of the campus. I later began as a chemistry transfer student in Fall 2019. Besides studying chemistry, I enjoy hiking, going to the beach, cooking, and playing with my pet rats – Potate, Tot, and Pete.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience.

My undergraduate experience has been unorthodox but extremely rewarding. Strikes, multi day blackouts, Covid-19, a wildfire, and online learning all came about during my time at UCSC, forcing me to adapt to whatever new learning environment I was in that quarter. Fortunately, these experiences didn’t get in the way of meeting the passionate, talented staff, professors, and graduate students who helped me get into research and have supported my journey. Throughout global uncertainty, research has been my happy place and contributing in a meaningful way to the research that Dr. Alexander Ayzner’s lab conducts has been a highlight of my time here. In the year and a half that I have been part of a research lab, I have gone from feeling intimidated in a lab setting to confidently presenting my research and even getting published. Earlier this year, I received the opportunity to work with my mentor and Ph.D. candidate Anna Johnston, along with other labmates, to publish our work titled, Conjugated Polyelectrolyte-Based Complex Fluids as Aqueous Exciton Transport Networks. It’s exhilarating to think about how people from around the world could potentially be reading about and finding excitement from the projects I contributed to.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?

I’ve always had a love of science but when I began college I was originally an English journalism major. I enjoyed my GE required chemistry and math classes, so I started taking more and more science classes “just for fun.” My schedule became full of STEM classes and I quickly realized journalism wasn’t for me. Semesters of science courses and active involvement in my community college’s chemistry club revealed my passion for chemistry. I wanted to live out the excitement I used to have working on science fair projects as a kid.

What are your goals/plans for the future?

I enjoy exploring the hidden worlds that are only accessible by microscope. After graduating, I plan on attending a scanning electron microscopy certificate program in order to pursue my goal of becoming a microscopy specialist.

Do you have any advice for other Chemistry/Biochemistry undergraduates?

Be kind to yourself, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and enjoy Santa Cruz! Try to remember that you’re going to college for you and your future, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out there to look for opportunities. UCSC has incredible undergraduate support programs and staff that want to see you succeed; you just need to take the first step and reach out. Classes are an important part of college, but finding research opportunities, exploring the campus or downtown, and making friends are invaluable to the college experience. Focus on learning as much as possible, meeting new people, and enjoy your time here, it goes by faster than you think!

Amrinder Bhuller – Winter 2022 Spotlight

Chemistry BS Major

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Amrinder Bhuller, and I am a 4th-year studying Chemistry. I am from a small town near Fresno, and living in Santa Cruz has been nothing short of an elating experience. Apart from being in the lab, I enjoy video games, music, watching shows, and reading.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience.

The past four years have been full of wonderful and unforgettable experiences with tremendous opportunities to grow and learn as an individual. Although COVID-19 limited the in-person experience, I met and interacted with excellent professors and students through zoom and online platforms. Being confined indoors, I strengthened my relationships with my family and friends while also having more time for academics.

A highlight in my undergraduate STEM experience was joining Shaowei Chen’s research lab at the end of my freshmen year. I have been researching in his lab since the summer of 2019. Reading literature papers and conducting experiments in a research environment is a unique opportunity that I hope all undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry students experience. I was able to work with amazing mentors and fellow students and had an overwhelmingly positive experience in the research lab. I discovered my passion for nanomaterials and am excited to pursue an advanced degree in the field.

As a first-generation college student in STEM, it felt like a massive burden on my shoulders. The combination of class difficulty and tremendous stress to uphold my family’s expectations made academics a strict priority in my undergraduate career. During these four years, I discovered something I never knew about myself: the ability to strive under immense pressure. I enjoyed my undergraduate career while maintaining and exceeding my family’s expectations.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?

My inspiration for chemistry first came from my high school chemistry teacher. She taught chemistry from a different angle, allowing me to understand and grasp the conceptual aspect of chemistry. I noticed how chemistry played a unique role in everyday life, something many people take for granted. I decided to dive deeper into chemistry by pursuing an undergraduate degree to gain a better understanding of the microscopic aspect.

Since then, I have shifted towards wanting to help the world with sustainable energy. With increased fossil fuel consumption, developing low-cost, renewable energy sources is essential. I want to focus on the process of energy conversion and be a helping hand in synthesizing potential electrocatalysts for water splitting. 

What are your goals/plans for the future?

My plan for the future is to pursue a Ph.D. in nanomaterials, and I will be focusing on renewable energy, particularly energy conversion and storage. The ultimate goal is to become a principal instructor and professor at a university.

Do you have any advice for other Chemistry/Biochemistry undergraduates?

With how COVID-19 affected every student, the most important advice I have to give is to believe in yourself. At the end of the day, you are in control of your own career, and only you will work hard to ensure a better future for yourself. There will always be moments when you doubt yourself, but you need to overcome those situations and focus. Everybody can pass any chemistry course, do not sell yourself short.

That being said, I believe that it is imperative to learn the course material conceptually. Sure, it is easier just to memorize organic chemistry reactions rather than understanding them, but this will hurt you in the long run. Taking the time to understand the material will enhance your overall understanding and ensure good grades. Furthermore, try to form good relationships with fellow students and form study groups. Study groups are the best way to bounce ideas off each other, helping one another. Do not feel shy within study groups; everyone is relatively understanding. Understanding the material is more important than worrying about what other students think.  

Irene Franco – Fall 2021 Spotlight

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Tell us about yourself!

I’m Irene, a fourth year student studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I am originally from Los Angeles, but living in Santa Cruz has brought a welcome change of pace to my life. Besides the sciences, I enjoy studying art history as well as creating art myself. When it comes to outdoor activities, I am a fan of stand-up paddle boarding and love to explore and hike the areas surrounding the UCSC campus.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience.

You were nominated partially due to your being awarded the  Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology Award in Spring 2021. You should be proud! Tell us more about it (what led to your earning that award, what you plan to do with the award, etc.).

The highlight of my STEM experience is undoubtedly joining the Millhauser Lab. Since my second year, I have been provided support and mentorship from my PI, Glenn Millhauser, and the lab members. I was so excited to get hands-on experience in a real research lab. As I gained more skills and understanding of the techniques we use in this lab, I went from a research assistant to a researcher in my own right. I developed a project idea and conducted my research through the Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology Award. Under the guidance of my current Ph.D. student mentor Fran Pavlovici, I was able to formulate the methods and goals of the project and was chosen to receive the award in Spring 2021. I quickly got to work utilizing the awarded funds during Summer 2021. This project involves crystallizing the prion protein, which turns out to be quite finicky, but my goal is to gain new insights into its interactions with the amyloid beta peptide through X-ray diffraction. Overall I am very grateful for the research experiences that the Millhauser Lab, the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, and its donors have provided me.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology?

Coming into the university, I knew I wanted to study biology and life in some form, but I was unsure of which major to choose. I explored the Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and MCD Biology majors before proposing. What I found is that the scale of Biochemistry is the most intuitive and interesting to me. Instead of the planet or biome-wide systems of Environmental Science, or the smaller systems that make up organisms in MCD Biology, I prefer learning about and studying life at the biomolecular level. I am likely biased due to my membership in the Millhauser Lab, but I find structural biology fascinating. It is also helpful that the fundamental concepts I learned in my study of biochemistry are endlessly applicable in the massive field of biotechnology.

What are your goals/plans for the future? 

After graduation, I want to take a little break from my education and start my career in the biotech industry, perhaps in food science! Afterwards, I would like to pursue a Masters in Biochemistry to further build on and specialize my knowledge. What happens beyond this depends on the opportunities and interests I discover along the way.


Ana Paula Kitos Vasconcelos

Headshot of Ana Paula Kitos Vasconcelos

Chemistry BS with Biochemistry Concentration Major

Tell us about yourself!
My name is Ana Paula and I am a 5th year senior studying Chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry. I was born in Australia to Brazilian and Canadian parents and I grew up in the Bay Area. In my free time I enjoy doing acrobatics and aerial art, foraging wild mushrooms and playing music.
Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience – has there been a highlight? What have you overcome? What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?
I am so happy that I chose to come to UCSC. I had the most amazing 5 years full of wonderful and passionate people and lots of opportunity to learn and grow as a person. At the beginning of my fourth year I was given the opportunity to be an organic chemistry lab teaching assistant, and since then I have TA’d both for that lab and Chem 8B. Teaching has been one of the highlights of my undergrad experience and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to discover my passion and excitement for education! Shoutout to Caitlin Binder for seeing my potential and mentoring me as I began my teaching journey! Another highlight was doing undergraduate research in the Braslau lab! Rebecca has been an amazing advisor and I feel like I have grown so much as a chemist and researcher in her lab. Getting into research is daunting at first but I am so glad that I did and have had such a wonderful and supportive group to learn from.
I was faced with the challenge of always being a pretty mediocre student. I found science fascinating but I struggled a lot with math and doubted my ability to graduate college with a degree in the sciences. My freshman year I ended up not passing my first ever college chemistry class. It was a big wake up call that I had to change my strategy and after strengthening my knowledge of fundamental math and chemistry I ended up having a completely different (and much better) relationship with school.
What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry/what do you want to do with your degree?
I was originally an environmental studies and biology major, interested in studying the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. I found myself asking a lot of questions that were out of the scope of the material for those majors. I realized that those questions could be explained by learning more chemistry, so I decided to change my major. My driving force has always been around sustainability-related issues and I want to use my chemistry knowledge to help enhance sustainability in material synthesis.
What are your goals/plans for the future? 
I am starting a Chemistry PhD program at the University of Washington in the fall! So that’s my five year plan. After that, who knows!? I am interested in becoming a professor since it’s a wonderful combination of my passion for teaching and interest in research but only time will tell!

Sophia Hollow, Class of 2020-2021 

Headshot of Sophia Hollow

Chemistry BS with Environmental Chemistry Concentration Major

Tell us about yourself!
My name is Sophie Hollow and I graduated in March as a chemistry major with a concentration in environmental science. Some of my hobbies include camping, rock climbing, acro-yoga, and spending time with my rescue pup Roo. I grew up in San Diego and return often to spend time with my family.
Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience – has there been a highlight? What have you overcome? What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?
I took a non-linear approach to my undergraduate career. I transferred schools twice for a total of almost eight years as an undergraduate, during which time I moved from general studies to engineering, then on to biology, before finally landing in chemistry. When I first entered the STEM field, I struggled with imposter syndrome and questioned my place in a largely male dominated field.
Arriving at UCSC was a huge turning point for me. I had the benefit of taking classes instructed by unapologetically vibrant and inspiring women. Additionally, I joined the Johnstone lab in June of 2019, where my passion for inorganic chemistry took off. I owe thanks to every member of the lab, and our PI Timothy Johnstone, for helping me to develop the confidence necessary to succeed.
What are your goals/plans for the future? 
I look forward to graduate school and to pursue a PhD in inorganic chemistry here at UCSC. There was a point in my life where I felt ashamed for the unusual track I was on, and for the time it was taking to make my way through my undergraduate career. Now, I am thankful for every opportunity to be a student, and to continue to learn and grow. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that there is no one “right track”.

Roberto Rivera, Class of 2020-2021 

Headshot of Roberto Rivera

Chemistry BS Major

Tell us about yourself!
My name is Roberto Rivera and I graduated in fall 2020 with a BS in Chemistry. Some of the hobbies that I love are cycling, hiking because I enjoy exploring new places. I also started playing pool while attending UCSC.
Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience – has there been a highlight? What have you overcome?
Performing research with my PI, Peter Weiss, was one of my highlights at UCSC. Being part of a research group was a great experience for me because I learned new analytical techniques, lab instruments, critical thinking skills, and I met some great researchers! I also believe that it made me more comfortable in the lab space since I had more freedom.
Because I attended a small high school that did not have many clubs or extracurricular activities, I did not have the opportunity to take on leadership positions. Coming into UCSC, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took on leadership positions in the UCSC Chemistry Club and other organizations. Taking these positions gave me new leadership skills and new challenges where I had an opportunity to learn more about myself.
What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry/what do you want to do with your degree?
I pursued an undergraduate degree in chemistry because of how much I enjoyed it during high school. I also knew I wanted to use chemistry to make a positive impact in society and I had a few career ideas when I began my undergraduate studies. Because chemistry is applied in many fields, I knew I would be able to direct my focus on either career option.
What are your goals/plans for the future? 
Now that I have graduated from UCSC, I will now be pursuing my Ph.D. and studying materials used in batteries to improve their performance and sustainability. I believe that furthering the technology in batteries is important because they have great potential in reducing the usage of fossil fuels since they can be used to store renewable energy and improved batteries could increase the usage of electric vehicles.

Josh Marquez, Class of 2022

Headshot of Josh Marquez

Chemistry BS with Biochemistry concentration Major

Start by introducing yourself!

My name is Josh Marquez and I’m a fourth year Chemistry major with a concentration in Biochemistry. I am the first openly gay member of my Mexican-American family as well as the first to pursue a degree in STEM. Like any UCSC student I enjoy hiking, music, photography, and film.

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate STEM experience – has there been a highlight? What have you overcome?

As an intersectional minority in STEM, my journey hasn’t always been easy but it has been worth it! Initially, I struggled with impostor syndrome, finances, and finding my community within the realm of science, however, after joining STEM Diversity in the Spring of 2020 and later beginning work in the McKinnie lab I have been met with nothing but support and open arms.

I’m sure everyone can agree that 2020 wasn’t the easiest year for students. Each of us were met with our own trials and tribulations that pushed us to our limits and showed us the true definition of persistence. I personally was evacuated several times from Santa Cruz this year due to the onset of the pandemic, wildfires, and finally after my grandfather passed away from COVID related complications on his 71st birthday. Despite these hurdles, I returned time and time again, determined to persevere through my degree and research project.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry?

My decision to pursue a degree in chemistry started in high school, though my passion for the subject didn’t fully bloom until I enrolled in organic chemistry my sophomore year at UCSC. After discovering the versatility and practicality of the field I fell in love with the subject and became determined to pursue this discipline to its fullest extent by enrolling in a doctoral program for natural products synthesis and bioorganic chemistry.

What are your goals/plans for the future?

My main goal for the future is to participate in a graduate program to advance the fringes of science while simultaneously advocating for and mentoring underrepresented students that are eager to enter this field of work. Ultimately I hope to teach at the university level and create a program designed to encourage minority participation in STEM.  

Allison Browne, Class of 2020 

Headshot of Allison Browne

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate experience – has there been a highlight?

I have grown and learned a lot over the course of my four years here and am grateful for everyone who has supported me along the way. A highlight of my undergraduate experience was realizing that I really enjoyed the major that I had chosen kind of on a whim and want to pursue biochemistry as a professional career.

What has your experience been like as a woman in STEM? (What have you overcome? Highlights?)

A lot of my friends are also STEM majors and successful in their respective fields which is so encouraging to me to be surrounded by incredible and supportive women lifting each other up.

What inspired you to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry?

I was a proposed Biology major but soon discovered that I loved chemistry as well and was able to learn about the best of both through Biochemistry. Also after taking the biochemistry series, I realized that I really enjoyed the content and was inspired by my professors and the research they are conducting into DNA and proteins.

Have you faced any challenges being a female in STEM? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

Being a mixed race women in STEM I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome, but I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of ambitious women and people of color and first generation students overcoming obstacles of their own to earn their education and have been so inspired by their journeys and their support. Also I have looked up to my female professors who have been amazing role models for me, showing me what is possible with hard work and passion for the subject.

Do you have any words of advice for other students who may be interested in pursuing this sort of research/major?

A word of advice would be to find a good group of people to study who are also interested in the same things or who are in your major because you will have classes with them all four years. Also take full advantage of the resources available to you like ACE, MSI, and make connections with TAs and professors through office hours because they do really want to help you out. Also get involved! I was part of Crown Student Senate and the Random with a Purpose dance showcase which both gave me a chance to meet so many wonderful people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

What are your goals/plans for the future?

I am planning to take a year off from school after graduating to pursue a job in biotechnology and later potentially a Masters in Pharmaceutical Chemistry after gaining industry experience.

Kareem Bdeir, Class of 2020 

Chemistry BS with Biochemistry concentration Major

My name is Kareem Bdeir and I am a graduating senior majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. I am a Palestinian American born in San Francisco, CA. Some of my hobbies include cooking and growing and caring for plants.

It’s hard coming up with a defining moment in my undergraduate experience because it has been a journey since day one. I started at UCSC as a Biology major but quickly switched to Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and then eventually to Chemistry with the concentration. It was somewhat unexpected how my undergraduate career managed to shape itself around what I liked. I gained inspiration from great professors and they unknowingly helped me realize that I want to teach chemistry.

Being a first generation student in STEM proved to be as difficult as people said it would be. The rigor of my classes paired with the pressure from my family has made these past four years difficult. Something that I learned about myself, however, is that I strive under pressure.

My current plan is to apply for a graduate program at the end of next year. I will work in research until my program begins in 2021.

Headshot of Kareem Bdeir

Shaneen Britton Acevedo, Class of 2020 

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Major

Tell us a bit about your undergraduate experience – has there been a highlight?

I began college as a Bioengineering major, however, it did not take long for me to realize I loved the chemistry and biology classes more than all others. So I changed my major and became a Biochemistry & Molecular Biology B.S. major. It is still one of the best choices I’ve made. Other great decisions I’ve made in college are to tutor for the classes I had already taken, the material becomes so much clearer when you teach it, so I would encourage everyone to try it.

What has your experience been like as a woman in STEM? (Highlights?)

As a Latina immigrant in STEM, having community has always been crucial for me. Here in Santa Cruz, I am surrounded by supportive people as a part of the EOP, ACE and the MSI community. In my research lab, UC LEADS and the STEM Diversity community, I am continuously encouraged and challenged. Being a part of these communities at UCSC has been a blessing, and I would say they are all the highlights of my experience here as a student. As a minority woman in STEM it was definitely a challenge to pursue a degree where you are not the norm, but having these communities strengthened me to pursue my goals.

What are your goals/plans for the future? 

Doing research in the Millhauser Lab opened my eyes to a career path I was unaware of before university. Now my plans for the future are to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology and continue to practice science beyond that.”

Headshot of Shaneen Britton Acevedo